Hot buttons, but cool heads

Published 5:40 am Wednesday, June 6, 2007

By Staff
Beaufort County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jay McRoy better warm up his gavel. That’s the only tool that can stop what could be a show involving state legislators that taxpayers don’t want to pay to see.
Monday night, commissioners again brought up the intent to get state Rep. Arthur Williams and state Sen. Marc Basnight to come to Beaufort County for a meeting with the elected county leaders. The seven commissioners want to discuss issues that are crucial to the county — they say.
Commissioners voted 4-3 to send letters inviting Williams and Basnight, both Democrats who represent Beaufort County in the General Assembly, to come to town for a chat. Discussion among county leaders indicates they intend to talk about Medicaid relief, illegal immigration, property-tax relief and stormwater regulations.
All of those subjects are hot-button issues for Beaufort County commissioners. Some of those buttons seem hotter than others, based on the regularity with which they come up. About the only thing that has come up a similar degree of regularity is getting Williams and Basnight to come here.
If commissioners discuss solely the topics laid out, a meeting with legislators will surely be a productive one. But ladies and gentlemen, that’s a pretty big if.
Commissioner Jerry Langley is likely right when he says some commissioners will get Williams, who’s from Beaufort County, and Basnight, the Senate leader from Dare County, here under the pretext of discussing critical issues and then ambush them. Commissioner Ed Booth, who also voted against the invitation, has said he “hates to see the show put on.” It could, indeed, become a show worthy of the Turnage Theater stage if McRoy isn’t gavel-ready.
This whole thing started in late March when Commissioner Robert Cayton, in defending Williams and Basnight, said he has always found them to be “100 percent responsive” to requests he’s made. Less than a week after Cayton made that statement, commissioners Hood Richardson and Stan Deatherage kicked off a political contest that reminds us of one young boys might instigate to prove their manliness.
In early April, Deatherage made a motion to get Cayton to invite Williams and Basnight to come here. Richardson seconded the motion. They said Cayton ought to be the one to extend the invitation because they’re so responsive to him. C’mon, boys; grow up. Adults can see right through that.
Cayton tried two months ago to amend Deatherage’s motion to state commissioners would be willing to go to Raleigh for a discussion on what’s happening in the General Assembly, but the amendment failed on 4-3 vote, with Deatherage, Richardson, Commissioner Al Klemm and McRoy defeating it.
Now, we believe the intentions of Klemm and McRoy are good ones. But it’s no secret that Deatherage and Richardson are no fans of the folks who represent us.
That’s where McRoy comes in.
Commissioners ought to ask tough questions and hold our legislators’ feet to the fire when necessary. But if a meeting with them veers — even slightly — toward becoming a three-ring circus, McRoy ought to bang the gavel.
Richardson and Deatherage both have the right to disagree with our legislators. But if they intend to berate Williams and Basnight, they better do it on their own dimes.